Steel Pier expansion moves forward minus diving horse act

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

The once-famed Steel Pier on the long-faded Atlantic City Boardwalk will invest more than $100 million on new amusement rides and entertainment venues after scrapping plans to revive its centerpiece diving horse act amid an outcry by animal rights activists.

PHOTOS: New rides at Steel Pier in Atlantic City

Located across from Donald Trump’s Taj Mahal casino on the New Jersey shore, the 1,000-foot-long amusement pier will add 11 rides, an arcade, nightclub, museum and ballroom during a four-year expansion project. The plan calls for two-thirds of the rides to be covered, allowing the pier to stay open 300 days per year.

A 2,000-seat multipurpose venue for concerts and stage shows will be modeled after the pier’s old Marine Ballroom, which once hosted acts ranging from Frank Sinatra to the Rolling Stones.

Heated criticism by animal rights activists forced Steel Pier officials to drop plans to reintroduce the iconic-yet-controversial diving horse act, which involved a horse leaping from a 40-foot-tall platform into a 12-foot-deep pool. The act ran on the pier from the 1920s to the 1970s and again briefly in 1993, shutting down both times amid vociferous opposition.

The key additions in the multi-phase expansion:

> A 385-foot-tall Funtime Star Flyer in 2013, dubbed the tallest swing tower in the world. Six Flags recently installed Star Flyers at several parks under the name SkyScreamer, including a 242-foot-tall version at Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey. The 384-foot-tall Vienna Star Flyer holds the current height record.

> An Intamin ZacSpin roller coaster by 2014, similar to Green Lantern: First Flight recently installed at Six Flags Magic Mountain in California. The fourth-dimension ZacSpin features cars that rotate forward and backward on a vertical zigzag track that sits on a compact footprint.

> A 250-foot-tall Ferris wheel with 42 enclosed gondolas and an LED lighting package in 2015. The Steel Pier attraction would top the tallest Ferris wheel in the U.S. (the 212-foot Texas Star in Dallas) but fall short of the 286-foot Pepsi Globe proposed for the American Dream mall at the Meadowlands in New Jersey.

On May 12, Steel Pier will add the following rides as part of the initial expansion phase:

> A 130-foot-tall Fabbri Booster spinning centrifuge arm called Fuze.

> A Frisbee-style pendulum swing ride by SBF called Freedom Flyer.

> The Water Circus swing carousel built by Bertazzon.

> A SBF Airborne Shot ride called Seamour that allows riders to control the fly-out feature on the arms of the spinning thrill ride.

> A miniature version of Zamperla’s Rockin’ Tug halfpipe ride.

> A SBF tea cup ride called Sugar Sugar.

> A SBF Air Show giant swing ride.

> The Beach Buggies car ride by Zamperla.

Opened in 1898, the original Steel Pier was known as the “Showplace of the Nation” and “The World’s Playground” during its heyday when visitors were entertained by water-skiing dogs, bike-riding bears, fortune-telling parakeets and high-diving horses.

After rebuilding following storm damage in 1904 and a devastating fire in 1969, Steel Pier closed in 1976 following the long, slow decline of Atlantic City. After another fire in the 1980s, Steel Pier reopened in 1993 with 14 rides and midway games.